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The Kansas City Chiefs should run more plays out of shotgun

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John Grieshop/Getty Images

Football is a complicated sport.

Allow me to assure you that we, the fans, understand a bare fraction of what is happening out there on the field. I've been privileged enough to speak with a few people who have been a part of and observed coaches game planning their offense. They all say the same thing; the amount of nuance in every play call is absolutely mind boggling and fans know about one percent of what's going on.

I get that very much, and I respect the fact that there's more to football than "if you just do this, the offense will be better."

That said, the Chiefs should be in shotgun all the time.

(Quick note before we get started; I'm not going to bother to differentiate between pistol and shotgun. You've been warned. Yes, there's a difference. But for the sake of this article that difference doesn't really matter. I'm just trying to save someone the time of commenting "some of those plays were pistol, not shotgun." You're welcome)

I went back and charted the vast majority of the snaps from Sunday vs. the Bengals, excluding a few penalty plays and the final drive (the Chiefs were down two scores with almost no time left. It's not really relevant to "normal" offensive statistics). I then compiled a list of statistics that I, at least, find pretty interesting.

Chiefs Under Center (15 Snaps)

Passes (Yards) Runs (Yards) Pass YPP Run YPP Sacks Sack % Stuffed Runs Stuffed Run %
8 (67) 7 (23) 8.38 3.29 2 25% 3 42.86%

We'll talk about the nuances of these numbers in a moment (particularly, we're gonna need some context for the "Pass yards per play" stat). But let's get the shotgun numbers up immediately.

Chiefs In Shotgun (55 Snaps)

Passes (Yards) Runs (Yards) Pass YPP Run YPP Sacks Sack % Stuffed Runs Stuffed Run %
40 (308) 15 (88) 7.7 5.87 3 7.5% 1 6.67%

All right ... so what can we determine from this? For me, there are several primary takeaways. First things first, though; context for that "yards per play" stat regarding the passing game.

On the surface the 8.38 yards per play in the passing game under center looks fantastic. However, it's worth noting that the majority of that came on Jeremy Maclin's 44 yard catch-and-run slant (Maclin can play, guys). While I'm not of the crowd that says you have to automatically discount big plays (that's silly), with such a small sample size (eight total plays) that play is going to drag the numbers up to a disproportionate level.

That aside, here are some takeaways I find relevant.

The Chiefs are able to run out of the shotgun effectively

Traditional football wisdom is that if you want to run the ball you line up in I-formation with a FB and TE, then overpower the opposition. However, traditional football wisdom doesn't account for a running back as gifted and unique as Jamaal Charles.

Take a look at the formation with this 13-yard run by Charles.

chiefs

The Bengals creep one safety up to within seven yards of the line of scrimmage (appearing to be in coverage on the TE), but even with that you can see the benefit of being in a shotgun formation with three WRs and a TE. It forces the defense to spread itself out along the field and generally forces at least one safety to stay back (rather than having both crowd the box).

An additional benefit you see when lined up in a formation that's more traditionally "pass" is that linebackers play it a little differently. When you're running power-I linebackers often move forward with their first step. Out of these formations the Bengals were often moving a step back or laterally. When you've got the kind of burst Charles (and to a lesser extent, Charcandrick West, the Chiefs new backup RB from all appearances) possesses, even that minor shift makes a difference.

The Chiefs ran the ball 15 times out of shotgun and gained four or more yards on 11 of those carries, with only one no-gainer (the lone "stuff) and absolutely no "negative yards" runs. They can run out of shotgun.

Alex Smith is safer (and better) in shotgun

This one speaks for itself. While Smith was sacked one more time in shotgun than under center, that was in over four times as many plays. I can live with a sack rate of 7.5% percent. It's not fantastic, but it's bearable. 25 percent is, um, not.

Now, is Smith likely to be sacked on 25 percent of plays under center consistently? No. But the numbers back up what we all saw on the field Sunday; Smith is getting pressured quite a bit, but he's shown better pocket presence when in shotgun (which literally every quarterback in the league possesses. You have more time to see the rush coming, it's just natural to be better) and the pressure hasn't gotten to him as quickly (again, distance matters).

The offensive line looks bad, and Smith's pocket presence has been quite poor. Being in shotgun seems to at least somewhat negate that.

In short, being in shotgun provides a clear benefit to the Chiefs (improved protection and quarterback play) and does not present the downside of hurting the run game (rather, the run game was MORE effective out of the shotgun, with fewer stuffs and negative plays).

If I had it my way, 95 percent of the Chiefs formations (if not even more) from here on out would involve shotgun. That doesn't mean it always needs to be three or four WRs, either. They can incorporate two RB and two TE sets into shotgun fairly easily, given the versatility of Anthony Sherman and Travis Kelce.

Now, about that defense... (ducks)